It was a hard-fought series victory for the West Indies over the World’s number one ranked T20 team India. The series margin 3-2 in favor of the home team and it was a bit of fresh air for once. Captain Rovman Powell led from the front with his astute captaincy skills on the field. West Indies have now recorded back to back T20I series victories in the last 4 months. Perhaps this latest T20I series win can be the catalyst this young West Indies team needs going forward. After all, it has been a very disappointing last year or so having not qualified firstly for the 2022 T20 World Cup super 12 in Australia and more recently booted out of the 50 over World Cup taking place in India later this year. Having said all that, the West Indies desperately need a World-class spin bowler in white ball Cricket.
It’s a known fact that West Indies Cricket came to glory through its battery of fast bowlers. With the exception of Alzarri Joseph, the speed is no longer what it used to be. From the start of the West Indies inauguration into Test Cricket in the 1920s, they had fast men such as Learie Constantine, Herman Griffith, George John and George Francis. These fast bowlers in the early days set up the bowling armoury and also an identity for the World to envision. Spin bowling unfortunately was not a pre-requisite part of the equation. It was not until the West Indies tour to England in 1950 that the selectors took a chance on two uncapped spinners who had been impressive in regional Cricket. Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine injected the spice of spin into the Caribbean team.
Is it the ego of West Indian selectors to persist with fast bowlers at the International level? It is fair to say however that fast bowlers in the Caribbean have been given a longer run in the team than their spin bowling counterparts.
They bamboozled and more importantly took wickets to win West Indies their first victory at the “home of Cricket – Lord’s”. Despite their success, the West Indies slipped by the end of that decade, despite having the greatest Cricketer on Earth and Mars, the great Sir Garfield Sobers. From 1969 to 1973, the men from the Caribbean failed to win a single Test match in four consecutive series. It was not until the mid 1970s that Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall came into the team and showed the World that pace was the mainstay for the next two decades. From the 1980s came Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Ian Bishop and the Benjamins – Winston and Kenny.
The West Indies team became the Champions of World Cricket and were undefeated in a Test series for 15 years. When Ambrose and Walsh hung up their boots in the early 2000s, the team failed to be penetrative with a fast bowling attack. Fast forward to 2023 and despite having Alzarri Joseph with his consistent pace and extracting bounce from most pitches, the hunt still continues for promising young fast bowlers. Globally, pitches have become very flat and seems to be the trend. In the Caribbean, the pitches in Trinidad and Guyana have always been traditionally slow, but Kensington Oval and Sabina Park known to be a fast bowler’s paradise have flattened out significantly over the last few years.
Spin bowlers are more rampant in World Cricket, and there have been some formidable ones who really take wickets. Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan may come easily to mind, but the current spinners in the World who are top-class include Nathan Lyon, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jack Leach. One has to ponder why spin has remained so low on the West Indies list despite its own high-quality spinners of the past like Lance Gibbs, Ramadhin and Valentine. Is it the ego of West Indian selectors to persist with fast bowlers at the International level? It is fair to say however that fast bowlers in the Caribbean have been given a longer run in the team than their spin bowling counterparts.
The West Indies team over the last 3 years have used a handful of spin bowlers. Hayden Walsh Jr. showed early promise with his leg-spin against Australia in mid 2021 and even gaining man of the series in West Indies 4-1 T20I victory. His promise though has dissipated and is no longer part of the team’s set-up. Akeal Hosein on the other hand has been the West Indies main spinner in the last two years with his orthodox left arm spin, displaying his control with good lines and lengths. As time went by, Hosein has proved that imparting spin on the ball with drift is key in taking wickets. It’s no surprise that he was successful in the team’s 3-2 series T20I victory over India.
Another promising spinner that comes to mind is Yannic Cariah. The 31 year old all-rounder hailing from Sangre Grande, Trinidad has been given chances at the highest level and his performances thus far has been promising. However, injuries have stalled his progress especially that freakish nasal injury in Zimbabwe that cut short his stay in the ODI World Cup qualifiers. Age however should not be a major factor in giving him lengthy opportunities. The West Indies in my opinion need a spinner who can potentially spin the ball both ways and be a genuine wicket taker in the quiet phases of the innings in both ODI and T20 Cricket. The likes of Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree provided this with their variations and controlled spin, thus winning two T20 World Cups back in 2012 and 2016.
The West Indies already will not be participating in the ODI World Cup later this year in India. The CPL starts soon and the West Indies selectors should have an eye out to see who are the potential candidates to fill the void of having another match winning spinner. Akeal Hosein has done a fine job thus far, but we all know that Cricket is a team sport and not individual. Eleven men go into the field and it is fair to say that the Caribbean side can be uplifted with another spinner who can get those break throughs in the crucial stages of games. The West Indies hovering at the bottom of the rankings is no coincidence whatsoever. Only time will tell if a new spin bowler can somehow rise from the rural areas to the International scene.